GRATERFORD >> It was way too quiet for Tori Alexander.
The Spring-Ford junior was in the midst of playing in the final of the Pioneer Athletic Conference Singles Championships for the second straight year and things were going completely wrong. She didn’t win a game while dropping the first set to Methacton junior Dina Nouaime. Something need to change for Alexander and quickly.
Fortunately for the Rams’ No. 1, it came in the form of a cheering section.
Alexander found her game concurrently with the after-school arrival of her Spring-Ford teammates and rattled off eight of the next nine games, ultimately claiming her first PAC singles championship, 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 over Nouaime Friday afternoon at Perkiomen Valley.
“When they showed up I was really happy,” Alexander said. “I like when people cheer for me so when they showed up I was hyper. As soon as they showed up I felt it.”
All season during dual meets a player is surrounded by teammates cheering one another on. It halts when tournament time comes and the number of active players dwindle. The arrival of Spring-Ford teammates Kathryn Alvarez, Bianca Caresosa, Lauren Ostermann and Brooke Kennedy gave Alexander a much-needed boost as she tried to sort out her game.
Top-seeded Alexander was in form in her noon semifinal win over Phoenixville’s Julia Gumieniak, 6-4, 6-3, as was No. 3 seed Nouaime, who dispatched No. 2 seed Jasmine Morris of Perkiomen Valley, 6-2, 6-0.
Besides the fan support, Alexander was able to lean on her past success against Nouaime – she won 6-3, 6-3, in their regular-season meeting – and in the PAC singles tournament, where she entered runner-up after falling to two-time PAC champion and past PIAA semifinalist Meredith Lee of Owen J. Roberts, 6-2, 6-1, in the 2016 final.
“I feel good,” Alexander said after the final. “I wanted to win because my freshman year I got third place and last year I got second, so I really wanted to get first this year and I did it.”
Her chance of taking another step up the podium didn’t look great in a first set where Nouaime was on fire, hitting toe-to-toe with the big-hitting Alexander, serving excellently and defending wisely while Alexander was spraying her groundstrokes.
Spring-Ford head coach Todd Reagan described Alexander as a player who can typically break out of funk in short order, but that was being put to the test.
“She was playing really good the first set and I really wasn’t, but I knew I would pick it up,” Alexander said. “I can’t really explain it, but I knew after we switched sets that I could find it. I knew I would break out of it but this (match) it took longer, I think just because she was playing so good.”
Nouaime was certainly pleased to win the first set so convincingly but knew she was far from home free.
“I felt pretty good (after winning the first set), but I knew she wasn’t going to give up in the final. I was ready for her to fight back in the second,” Nouaime said. “I felt kind of surprised it wasn’t a close set, but I just thought to keep the momentum going and keep doing the same thing and if not try to change it up a bit.”
The second set was back and forth with the players trading breaks twice to go to 2-2, then holds for Alexander to go up 4-3. The match turned for good in the eighth game of the set when Alexander broke Nouaime’s serve with a thumping crosscourt backhand winner for 5-3 before serving out the set with relative ease.
With her power-packed serve and groundstrokes now in tune, Alexander raced out to a 4-0 lead in the third before closing it out with a crosscourt forehand winner on match point.
Both players advance to the District 1 Championships, to be held Friday, Oct. 6 at Legacy Tennis. They will be joined in AAA by Morris and Gumieniak as well as Pottstown’s Gianna Epps and Pope John Paul II’s Dominique Marracau in AA.
“I went last year so hopefully I can make it a bit further,” Nouaime said. “I feel a bit more confident now with knowing the facility and what to expect in the tournament.”
NOTES >> In seeding matches, Gumieniak claimed third place with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Perk Valley’s Morris. In the fifth-place match, Phoenixville’s Mila Archer overcame Owen J. Roberts’ Elaina Lee, 3-6, 6-4, 10-7 (super-tiebreak)